Squarespace, a leading website building and ecommerce platform, is widely acclaimed for its user-friendly interface and stylish design templates.
Its comprehensive range of built-in ecommerce, marketing and SEO tools has earned it an extensive and appreciative user base.
Squarespace provides a platform for online stores to sell various products and offers multiple payment and shipping options.
The user-friendly platform makes creating and managing online stores straightforward, even for beginners.
It provides an array of beautiful, dedicated templates for online stores sorted into categories to make selection easier. The templates are modern-looking, mobile-friendly and designed to make a Squarespace storefront look appealing with minimal effort.
Squarespace offers a variety of tools to support online selling, including inventory management, shipping, tax calculation, SEO, marketing and analytics tools.
However, some of these features, such as a dedicated email marketing dashboard, may need to be accessed through extensions.
Squarespace offers a 14-day free trial and its paid plans include Business, Basic Commerce and Advanced Commerce, all of which allow online selling. The prices range from $18 to $40 monthly if billed annually.
The Business plan costs $18/month and is suitable for someone not yet committed to selling online. It allows unlimited product listings but has a 3% transaction fee for each sale.
The Basic Commerce plan costs $26/month and is recommended for those serious about selling on Squarespace but just getting started. This plan eliminates transaction fees and offers additional features like advanced website analytics.
The Advanced Commerce plan costs $40/month and is suited for businesses taking off. It includes advanced ecommerce tools like shipping and discounts, with no transaction fees.
Squarespace offers a robust customer support system through multiple channels including email, live chat and social media, although live chat is unavailable 24/7.
It also provides a comprehensive online Help Center with information on the most common issues.
Easy online store creation and management
Multiple payment and shipping options
Built-in ecommerce, marketing and SEO tools
Dedicated templates for online stores
Live Chat is not available 24/7
Monthly rates may be considered expensive by some users.
Free: No monthly cost but with 2.9% + 30 cents transaction fees. This plan has several features such as up to 500MB of bandwidth and storage, managing multiple sites, SEO tools, marketing tools and more. However, it comes with limitations such as Square's ads displayed on your website and usage of a Square subdomain.
Plus, This plan costs $12 per month (billed annually) with 2.9% + 30 cents transaction fees. It includes all of the features of the Free plan but with unlimited bandwidth and storage and the option to set up your custom domain. You can also remove Square's footer and ads from your site and access custom fonts and password-protected pages.
Performance: This plan is $26 per month (billed annually) and has 2.9% + 30 cents transaction fees. It offers all the capabilities of the Professional plan with additional features such as abandoned cart recovery, customer product reviews, comprehensive shipping tools, discounts on UPS shipping rates, advanced reporting and the option to accept PayPal payments.
Premium: This plan costs $72 per month (billed annually) and transaction fees of 2.6% + 30 cents.
Each of these plans comes with specific features and transaction fees depending on the level of service that you need.
WooCommerce is a robust ecommerce plugin that allows businesses to create their own online store on the WordPress CMS.
WordPress is not a dedicated ecommerce platform, but WooCommerce builds upon the immense support and customizability of the WordPress framework, transforming it into a robust online store.
(It's also the only open-source ecommerce platform on this list.)
It's widely recognized for its flexibility and scalability, making it an ideal choice for small and large businesses.
WooCommerce offers comprehensive features for developing and running a successful online store.
It supports the sale of physical, digital and even affiliate products, with no limit on the number of items you can sell.
It also allows for multi-channel sales, enabling you to list products on platforms like Facebook and Instagram.
WooCommerce supports various payment options, including major credit cards, PayPal, bank transfers and cash on delivery.
It provides built-in tools for SEO and analytics, plus it can be further optimized with additional plugins for marketing and other ecommerce functions (such as the Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress).
The official WooCommerce marketplace and the wider WordPress plugin ecosystem provide a wealth of extensions that can dramatically expand the functionality of your store, from live chat and email marketing tools to advanced shipping and inventory management solutions.
WordPress is still the gold standard CMS for content production and marketing, specifically blog articles (like the one you're reading now).
If you want SEO or content to be part of your marketing strategy, consider the WordPress + WooCommerce stack.
WooCommerce itself is a free plugin.
However, running a WooCommerce store will require a WordPress hosting account, which typically starts from around $3/month.
Moreover, some premium extensions and themes come at an additional cost.
Before jumping in headfirst with WooCommerce, thoroughly review the features and what extensions you'll need.
Support for WooCommerce is primarily provided through online documentation and forums. For direct support, users may need to go through their WordPress hosting company or the developers of the specific plugins they are using.
Highly customizable and scalable
Supports a wide variety of product types
Extensive range of payment options
Access to a large marketplace of extensions for added functionality
Free to download and use
Requires WordPress and some technical knowledge to set up and manage
May be costly to expand the basic features of "vanilla" WooCommerce
Direct customer support is limited compared to other platforms
Lacks some built-in marketing and SEO tools found in other ecommerce platforms
May require frequent updates for WordPress, WooCommerce and other plugins, which can create maintenance overhead.
Shift4Shop (formerly known as 3dcart) is a comprehensive ecommerce platform that provides businesses with all the tools they need to build and manage an online store.
It's appreciated for its wide range of built-in features and scalable solutions suitable for businesses of all sizes.
Shift4Shop offers robust features for building and managing an online store.
It supports selling physical and digital products without restrictions on the number of products you can list.
Shift4Shop also enables multi-channel sales, allowing you to sell on platforms like Facebook, eBay and Amazon.
Shift4Shop integrates with over 160 payment providers, including major credit cards and digital currencies. It provides advanced SEO, marketing and analytics tools to improve your store's visibility and performance.
The platform also boasts an App Store with numerous integrations that can extend the functionality of your store, from live chat and email marketing tools to advanced shipping and inventory management solutions.
Volusion is an all-in-one ecommerce platform that provides businesses with the tools to build and operate an online store.
It's known for its user-friendly interface and extensive built-in features.
Volusion offers many features for creating and managing an online store. It supports the sale of physical products, digital goods and services.
Volusion also provides multi-channel selling options, allowing you to sell on platforms like Facebook, Amazon and eBay.
Volusion integrates with various payment gateways, including major credit cards, PayPal and Stripe.
It offers built-in tools for SEO, marketing and analytics to help optimize your store's visibility and performance.
The platform has an App Store that offers a selection of add-ons and integrations, allowing you to enhance your store's functionality with features like live chat, email marketing and advanced shipping options.
Volusion offers several pricing plans. Billed annually, the Personal plan starts at $31.50/month, the Professional plan is $71.50/month and the Business plan is $269.10/month.
Volusion provides customer support via phone, live chat and email. They also offer a knowledge base with tutorials, guides and a community forum.
User-friendly interface and easy-to-use tools
Supports sales of physical products, digital goods and services
Integration with multiple payment gateways
Built-in tools for SEO, marketing and analytics
App Store for expanding your store's capabilities
Higher-tier plans can be expensive for small businesses
Limited design customization options compared to some platforms
Some users report occasional issues with site speed and performance
Advanced features may require the use of third-party apps or custom development
Additional costs may be incurred for premium apps and services
Key Features to Consider
Small business ecommerce is lean.
It's all about cutting the fat; only paying for the things that you absolutely need to run your business and nothing else.
The best ecommerce platform for you will be the one that accommodates your goals and nothing more.
Here are some key features to look out for when evaluating ecommerce platforms.
An essential feature to look for in an ecommerce platform is a robust inventory management system that allows you to keep track of stock levels, manage product listings and handle multiple product categories.
Effective inventory management lets you optimize product offerings and avoid stockouts or overstocking issues.
Many of these platforms have very rudimentary inventory management features (like basic stock tracking). We highly advise looking into a dedicated inventory management software platform, especially as you start getting into selling on multiple channels.
Another crucial aspect of any ecommerce platform is its ability to process payments seamlessly.
The platform should support a variety of payment options, including credit cards, debit cards and popular digital wallets like PayPal.
Additionally, it should offer a secure payment gateway to protect your business and customers from fraud.
A comprehensive suite of marketing tools is vital to drive traffic and boost sales.
Modern ecommerce platforms should offer built-in features for email marketing, social media integration and search engine optimization (SEO).
Look for a platform with analytics and reporting features to help you make data-driven decisions to improve your marketing efforts.
Consider this expense in your budget calculations, as it's necessary for building your online presence.
Web hosting is essential for keeping your site live and accessible.
Different hosting plans are available at varying prices, with WooCommerce, for example, estimating costs to be $120 per year.
This cost will depend on the ecommerce platform you choose and the hosting plan you select.
Integration and Expansion
A crucial aspect for small businesses is integrating with online marketplaces smoothly. Platforms like Shopify enable sellers to connect with marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay.
This allows businesses to increase their product visibility, enhance customer reach and boost sales. Integrating with popular marketplaces simplifies product listing management, order processing and inventory updates.
Point of Sale Systems
Point of Sale (POS) system integration is essential for businesses with both online and physical stores.
A well-integrated POS system ensures seamless syncing of inventory, sales data and customer information across all sales channels.
Platforms like Shopify and Square offer comprehensive POS solutions, making it easy for businesses to manage their sales data, inventory and customer information in one place.
Accounting and CRM Integration
ecommerce platforms should also enable seamless integration with accounting and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems.
This aids in streamlining financial management, accurately tracking expenses and improving customer relations.
Smart data synchronization between ecommerce platforms and accounting software like QuickBooks, Xero, or FreshBooks can save time and minimize errors.
Integration with CRM tools, such as Salesforce or HubSpot, can help businesses better manage customer data, enhance marketing efforts and track the customer journey more effectively.
Small businesses can streamline operations, improve sales and improve customer experience by incorporating these integrations and expansions into their ecommerce strategy.
Advanced Functionality and Customization
Plug-ins and Extensions
One of the crucial aspects of choosing an ecommerce platform is the availability of plug-ins and extensions. These add-ons offer advanced functionality and customization options.
Platforms like Shopify boast a huge library of integrations and extensions, enabling you to tailor the platform to your needs.
Examples of popular plug-ins include Google Analytics integration for monitoring performance and Elementor, a widely-used page builder for WordPress.
Checkout Customization and Cart Recovery
Customizing the checkout process is an essential feature of ecommerce platforms. Tailoring the checkout experience, including support for different currencies, can help reduce cart abandonment rates.
Additionally, the ideal ecommerce platform will provide tools for cart recovery, such as email follow-ups for abandoned carts.
Choosing the best ecommerce platform for a small business in 2023 depends on your company's specific needs and goals.
From the user-friendly interface of Wix to the limitless customizability of WordPress + WooCommerce, each platform offers unique strengths that can empower your online store.
So, assess your business needs, compare these top choices (trying out all available free trials) and select the best platform with your business model and growth strategy.